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A look at wealthy Americans' views on inheritance

California residents who are concerned about issues with estate beneficiaries may wish to know the results of an estate planning survey of wealthy Americans. Their views on whom to leave their assets to and how much to give may be instructive.

It is estimated that from 2007 to 2061, a total of $59 trillion will be passed down to beneficiaries. For those who have a high net worth, generally seen as over $5 million, family is the main concern. A survey of 206 wealthy individuals revealed that passing their assets on to their children and other family members is their most important estate planning goal, with philanthropy first in the minds of only 4 percent. Another major concern is minimizing taxes in order to preserve assets for their beneficiaries. Many of those surveyed plan to give to family members during their lifetimes in order to limit estate taxes.

The question of how much to give to family members has no easy answers. There is a delicate balance between giving heirs the ability to do whatever they want with their lives and giving them too much, potentially making the heirs lazy or entitled. While those worth $100 million found that the answer to how much was between $26 and $63 million for one child, the survey revealed that there is no single solution. However, most who were surveyed said they would not discuss it with their heirs for fear of causing a disruption in the family.

Navigating the various issues dealing with heirs and beneficiaries of an estate can be difficult without the assistance of an attorney. The attorney may be able to assess the person's financial situation and draft the appropriate estate planning documents to help them realize their goals.

Source: International Business Times, "How Much Money Should Wealthy Parents Leave Their Kids, And When Should They Give It?," Elizabeth Whitman, April 30, 2015

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